En­raged hope to si­lence Merkel

Grey vote has younger gen­er­a­tions wor­ried

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

OSTSEEBAD BINZ, Ger­many, Sept 16, (AFP): Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel may ap­pear to be cruis­ing to a vic­tory in next week’s elec­tions, but her cam­paign ral­lies across Ger­many have been plagued by rowdy pro­test­ers who have been jeer­ing, boo­ing and even fling­ing toma­toes at her.

From the west­ern univer­sity town of Hei­del­berg to the pic­turesque south­ern city of Rosen­heim and the eastern heart­land of Tor­gau, pro­test­ers bear­ing ban­ners like “Get lost” or “Merkel must go” have sought to drown out the chan­cel­lor’s speeches.

The un­ruly protests have jolted awake a snoozy cam­paign and tar­nished Merkel’s im­age of in­vin­ci­bil­ity, even though her con­ser­va­tive al­liance is com­mand­ing a strong dou­ble-digit lead in opin­ion polls.

They are also com­ing at a time when the anti-im­mi­gra­tion and anti-Is­lam Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) party has been gain­ing in the polls in the fi­nal stretch be­fore the Sept 24 vote.

All of which has sparked ques­tions about the source of the pent-up anger, par­tic­u­larly since the ex­plo­sively di­vi­sive is­sue of 2015’s mass refugee ar­rivals had seem­ingly faded as the in­flux eased last year.

“The rage is not fu­elled only by Merkel’s refugee pol­icy, but also by pow­er­less­ness, from the feel­ing of not be­ing taken se­ri­ously by ‘them up there’,” the weekly mag­a­zine Spiegel said.

Timo Lo­chocki, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst at the Ger­man Mar­shall Fund, said the anger had been “long in the mak­ing” be­cause the rul­ing coali­tion of Merkel’s “CDU and the So­cial Demo­cratic Party do next to noth­ing to ap­pease th­ese vot­ers”.

“Over the last three to four years, the anti-es­tab­lish­ment vot­ers, plus dis­il­lu­sioned con­ser­va­tives fed up with the eu­ro­zone res­cue and mi­gra­tion deal, are shift­ing more and more to the right,” he said — and straight into the arms of the AfD.

EU-US data pact faces test:

A pact un­der­pin­ning bil­lions of dol­lars of transat­lantic data trans­fers will un­dergo its first an­nual re­view on Mon­day, with Europe seek­ing to en­sure Washington has lived up to its prom­ises to pro­tect the data of Euro­pean

Far from be­ing a spon­ta­neous out­pour­ing of fury, the protests are highly or­gan­ised — and have the AfD’s fin­ger­prints all over them.

Many of the so-called en­raged cit­i­zens (“Wut­buerger” in Ger­man) ar­rive with AfD posters, re­flect­ing the party’s suc­cess in tap­ping into the out­rage over the ar­rival of more than a mil­lion refugees to Ger­many since 2015.

Ahead of Merkel’s planned rally on Satur­day at her con­stituency’s Baltic Sea re­sort of Binz, a call has gone out on so­cial me­dia among self-styled “pa­tri­ots” to mo­bilise for a protest.

Mean­while, save for pen­sion­ers or in­vest in young peo­ple? It’s one of the most prickly de­bates across Ger­many ahead of next week’s elec­tion, and with vot­ers over 60 mak­ing up the big­gest share of the elec­torate, politi­cians are pulling out all the stops to charm re­tirees.

Fail­ing

But that is rais­ing fears that in do­ing so, can­di­dates may be fail­ing to suf­fi­ciently in­vest in the fu­ture.

Dur­ing their sole tele­vised de­bate, Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and her main ri­val Martin Schulz both fell over them­selves to pledge that mov­ing up the re­tire­ment age to 70 was out of the ques­tion.

But dur­ing the 90-minute clash, there was hardly a men­tion of ed­u­ca­tion or the dig­i­tal econ­omy — both weak links in Ger­many, where child poverty is also on the rise.

“Age­ing is a very good thing ... but of course, there will be reper­cus­sions on democ­racy,” said Wolf­gang Gru­endinger, a 33-year-old his­to­rian and spokesman for a foun­da­tion that ad­vo­cates the rights of younger gen­er­a­tions.

The gov­ern­ment will al­ways find re­sources for a pen­sion pack­age, he said, even as it tight­ens the bud­get else­where.

“There are many pol­icy ar­eas in which... there’ll be no change. It’s al­most like we’re putting Ger­many in

cit­i­zens stored on US servers.

Feted as a mile­stone in transat­lantic re­la­tions, which had soured af­ter rev­e­la­tions of mass US sur­veil­lance four years ago, the EU-US Pri­vacy Shield data pact has been in place for just over a year. a glass jar to pre­serve it for al­ways, while we are scrimp­ing on the fu­ture,” he said.

As the pace of Ger­many’s age­ing ac­cel­er­ates, the chances that poli­cies would be tai­lor-made for the el­derly rise as se­nior cit­i­zens’ voices get louder.

The “grey vote” goes largely to Ger­many’s two big par­ties, Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union or Schulz’s So­cial Demo­cratic Party.

The lib­eral FDP also man­ages to get a slice of this vote, a re­cent study by the DIW eco­nomic in­sti­tute said.

Former pres­i­dent Ro­man Her­zog had al­ready warned in 2008 against a “pen­sioner democ­racy” which would be con­demned to a slow death.

Warn­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties against “pay­ing dis­pro­por­tion­ate at­ten­tion” to the el­derly as their num­bers rise, Her­zog said then that “it could end up in a sit­u­a­tion where older gen­er­a­tions plun­der the younger ones.”

The de­bate has been re­vived ahead of the elec­tions on Septem­ber 24, as those above 60 will make up the big­gest pro­por­tion — 36.1 per­cent — of the elec­torate, ac­cord­ing to Ger­many’s GDV fed­er­a­tion of in­sur­ers.

Vot­ers un­der 40 will make up less than a third (29.3 per­cent), re­flect­ing both Ger­many’s low birth rates and ris­ing life ex­pectan­cies.

The dis­con­nect could grow fur­ther as the baby boomer gen­er­a­tion born af­ter World War II con­tin­ues to swell the ranks of pen­sion­ers.

In a study pub­lished at the end of Au­gust, Europe’s data agency Euro­stat found that Ger­many in­vested just 4.2 per­cent of its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct in ed­u­ca­tion in 2015, be­low the Euro­pean av­er­age of 4.9 per­cent.

In com­par­i­son, its deficit-hit neigh­bour France spent 5.5 per­cent on ed­u­ca­tion.

Er­win Ben­der, a re­cent re­tiree, said he was fed up with a de­bate that he says scape­goats older gen­er­a­tions.

It was ham­mered out af­ter the Euro­pean Union’s top court struck down a pre­vi­ous data trans­fer pact in 2015 be­cause it al­lowed US spies ex­ces­sive ac­cess to peo­ple’s data, plung­ing ev­ery­day cross-bor­der data trans­fers into le­gal limbo. (RTRS)

Ukraine camp fire kills 2:

A fire swept through a chil­dren’s camp in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa, killing two girls and leav­ing a third one miss­ing, author­i­ties said Satur­day. Ukrainian Prime Min­is­ter Volodymyr Groys­man ex­pressed con­do­lences and vowed those re­spon­si­ble would face tough pun­ish­ment.

“It is a great tragedy when chil­dren die,” he said in tele­vised re­marks.

The fire broke out late Fri­day in the camp’s wooden two-storey build­ing where chil­dren slept in the re­sort city of Odessa some 440 kms south of the Ukrainian cap­i­tal Kiev, emer­gen­cies ser­vices said.

Af­ter the blaze was put out three girls aged be­tween 8 and 12 were un­ac­counted for and later “frag­ments of two burned chil­dren’s bod­ies were found” dur­ing work to clear the de­bris, a ser­vices state­ment said. The ser­vices added the search for a miss­ing child was un­der way with two more hos­pi­talised.

“There is a glim­mer of hope that she got scared and ran away and is in shock now,” said re­gional po­lice spokesman Rus­lan Forostyak, who said the fire alarm did not sound. (AFP)

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